Eduard Limonov and His Vision of a Different Russia
by Michael Kumpmann
Michael Kumpmann delves into Eduard Limonov’s hidden philosophical impact, revealing how his blend of style, radicalism, and thought shaped the Identitarian Movement and more.
The majority of the New Right is at least rudimentarily familiar with the philosophy of Alexander Dugin. However, Eduard Limonov, who worked with Dugin for decades, is almost absent from the discussion. Nevertheless, he too developed an interesting philosophy that is certainly worth a look.
The first fundamental thing that can be said about Eduard Limonov is that fashion, youth culture, politics, and philosophy are inseparable in his work. His National Bolshevik Party was thus not meant to be a party like the AfD (Alternative for Germany) but rather a mix of political party, ‘punk group’, and avantgarde. This influence also partially spilt over into the early texts of Alexander Dugin and is, for instance, a reason why Dugin’s ‘Arctogea Manifesto’ concludes the ‘list of most significant philosophers’ with John Lydon from the Sex Pistols.
Direct Predecessor of the Identitarian Movement
This is precisely why Limonov must be seen as a direct predecessor of the Identitarian Movement, trends like Vaporwave, and individuals like Chris Ares. Surprisingly, however, Limonov nowhere mentions Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange. And this is despite the fact that his movement often really acts like a transfer of the youth gangs there into reality.
The second point is that Limonov uses an extremely personal, emotive style that quickly builds a closeness with the reader and therefore often uses tools like anecdotes. Hence, Limonov’s style is the complete opposite of Alexander Dugin’s, who often writes so academically dryly that one only grasps his meaning after the third reading.
The downside, however, is that Limonov did not really think through much of what he demanded. This is particularly noticeable on the topic of the economy. For instance, he quite rightly complains that work in principle is ‘rubbish’ and that workers have to lead a dreary life as ‘wage slaves’. Yet he does not mention automation but instead suggests at one point that in order for people to work less, there should be a voluntary agreement to consume less.
The third point: at first glance, National Bolshevism sounds highly antithetical to freedom, namely authoritarian and totalitarian. This is greatly misleading. Limonov manages to combine the most freedom-loving aspects of the left, the right, and a few libertarians into a mixture that is closer to anarchism than to totalitarianism. His main influences are anarchism, Traditionalism (Evola etc.), the ‘68 student revolution (especially in the form of the hippie communes and the works of Herbert Marcuse), American militia culture, the ‘chaos troops’ of Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, and ‘left-handed Christianity’, as represented, for example, by the so-called Anabaptists, the Khlysts, and Grigori Rasputin.
Limonov’s fundamental thesis is that he views modernity as a process in which the world is increasingly technologised, quantified, and regimented in a way that can be easily controlled from above — similar to Ted Kaczynski, René Guénon, Theodor Adorno, and Martin Heidegger. This process makes the world more efficient and safer. However, it also ensures that the world becomes ‘more boring’; man becomes more alienated from his life and from others, and traditional systems such as the family are devalued, undermined, and degenerated into mere instruments of state power. Directly tangible effects of this process are, above all, the exploitation of workers, as well as the modern school system, which only drills children into obedience.
Hence, the choice between capitalism and communism plays a secondary role. Capitalist states would preach the free market but not live it. Instead, the same ‘control structures’ have been established in the West as in communism, with the difference that the West, instead of the state, prefers some international mega-corporations and destroys the economic freedom of all others to their advantage.
A consequence of this is that there are private companies in the West but, with few exceptions, no visionary entrepreneurs who shape the company through their own spirit. Instead, companies have devolved into stock corporations, whose ownership is so fragmented that it is no longer clear for whose benefit a company still exists.
Dictate of Economic Efficiency
This development also tries to destroy every other culture and way of life, and to subject all people to the dictate of economic efficiency. This phenomenon is at the core of globalisation. The counterpoint to this development is cultural evolution. Here, Limonov is a follower of the historiosophical ‘Great Man’ theory. This theory is the antithesis of the Marxist philosophy of history, which prescribes the course of history in group dynamics.
The Great Man theory, on the other hand, assumes that some outstanding individuals influence the course of history through their ideas and actions, while the masses are just a ‘lethargic heap of disinterested fools’ who only jump onto a ‘train’ as followers.
This special individual who directs history is the radical outsider apart from the masses. He does not care what the common people think of him and instead lives only according to what he believes to be right. The reference to Nietzsche’s Übermensch (overman) is obvious here.
However, since modernity only wants humans as cogs in the machine, it fights these ‘culture-creating geniuses’ particularly hard. Therefore, such people live today as ‘outcasts’ on the fringes of society. And this is where Herbert Marcuse comes into play. He described the ‘outcasts’ of a society as the true revolutionary class, with whose help a new society could be built.
According to Limonov, these people represent the precursor of the Nietzschean Übermensch described above. And such a group of pariahs, according to Limonov, are the punks to whom he particularly addressed himself — but at the same time, all kinds of radicalism, whether left-wing, right-wing, religious, or anarchist in motivation.
This could now be interpreted very individualistically. However, this is not entirely true. The individualism that is typical of Western states today is, for Limonov, a sick consequence of modernity, born out of fear of syphilis and other diseases. Instead, humans need the community to unfold their potential and freedom. Limonov develops a concept that roughly reminds one of the typical New Right communitarianism and communes of left-wing anarchists and hippies, as well as Jack Donovan’s idea of the ‘new barbarian tribes’. One should imagine the ideal commune in the Limonovian sense as a kind of large family where everyone is either related or married to each other.
Everyone Should Be Married to Everyone
Limonov does not mean this ‘metaphorically’, as it may sound. In The Other Russia, Limonov demands that the inhabitants of such a commune should actually voluntarily share possessions and spouses, so that literally everyone should be married to everyone. He even goes so far as to suggest that other members of the commune who have problems with this should be helped to overcome them.
This demand for free love was the main reason why Alexander Solzhenitsyn was hostile towards Limonov. Indeed, from a Traditionalist point of view, this can be delicate. However, Julius Evola has referred to both marriage and the orgy as legitimate traditional forms of sexuality and partnership. Terence McKenna, who, as a hippie, advocated free love and drugs, had a worldview very similar to Traditionalism.
However, Limonov saw the fundamental prerequisite for a community as the willingness to fight for one’s loved ones and family and possibly to die for them. Limonov formally calls this conscription. However, typical of his anarchist manner, he rather means the idea of a militia, as it is realised in the USA, particularly through the Second Amendment. According to Limonov, when individuals are allowed to own weapons and organise and defend themselves, it ensures that they develop a healthy mistrust of central authority.
The Collapse of Globalism
According to him, the modern state and globalism are on the verge of collapse. This is because every system becomes more corrupt and ‘rotten’ from within over time, and this process can, at most, be slowed down but never stopped. The time should be used to gather strength and form an ‘alliance of separatists’. This means an alliance of all forces that want to decide for themselves about their lifestyle. It could be anyone from an anarchistic free spirit to a religious sectarian. At some point, the right time will come and then the system can be easily and finally kicked into the abyss.
This would be the endpoint of modernity and the centralised state. In the ensuing chaos, people would reorganise themselves into nomadic groups and small village communities. A variety of voluntary associations with the most diverse cultures and ways of life would emerge, living freely on their own. And these would organise themselves like former principalities into a new ‘feudal’ Russia.
It is evident that Limonov’s philosophy is much more chaotic and ‘destructive’ than that of Dugin and most of the New Right. Therefore, it will not be an option for many to adopt his system wholesale. However, Limonov managed to develop an extremely dynamic philosophy from a Traditionalist or conservative point of view. And precisely because many conservatives are sinking into prudishness, humourlessness, philistinism, and hostility to life, it is worth looking at Limonov’s philosophy of extreme, chaotic freedom as an antidote.
(translated by Constantin von Hoffmeister)